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The Pai FCC Is Oddly Quiet About Trump's Plan To Have The Agency Police Speech

from the selective-silence dept

So last week, you probably saw the leaked plan by the Trump administration to try and "fix" the nonexistent censorship of Conservatives on social media. According to the leak, a large part of the plan would involve having the FCC, which has no real authority in this area, police speech on platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Most legal experts I've spoken to say the plan is illegal and utterly nonsensical, and the FCC has no authority to do this under Section 230 or anywhere else. The order would also undermine most of the logic the Pai FCC used in its effort to repeal net neutrality.

Oddly though, an FCC that has been very vocal on this subject when convenient has been oddly mute since the story broke, with none of the agency's three Republican Commissioners (Ajit Pai, Brendan Carr, or Mike O'Rielly) making so much as a peep about the terribleness of the latest Trump "plan."

This kind of silence is uncharacteristic. O'Rielly, for example, was positively apoplectic recently when he proclaimed (falsely) that community broadband posed a dire threat to free speech. Carr has similarly expressed great disdain previously at the idea of government regulating speech on social media platforms, and hyperventilates over telecom sector free speech rights any time someone even faintly suggests giants like Comcast should be held accountable for decades of abysmal service:

Then there's Pai, who attacked net neutrality extensively by insisting it was the equivalent of the Fairness Doctrine, the exact type of solution Trump is now proposing for social media. Pai has routinely tried to play both sides of this debate, insisting he's a stalwart defender of free speech, yet demonizing platforms like Twitter for nonexistent censorship when it makes for a good sound byte. He's also repeatedly stated we can't possibly hold bumbling monopolies like AT&T and Comcast accountable on the state or federal level because it would violate their First Amendment rights (a belief those companies share).

All of this endless hand wringing over free speech, and yet when the President of the United States says he wants to use the FCC to police speech on social media (again with near zero authority to do so), all three of these free speech patriots are suddenly quiet.

And while you could argue that they didn't comment because the plan hasn't been made official yet, that didn't stop them from loudly deriding a similarly undercooked, leaked plan by the Trump administration to nationalize the nation's 5G networks. That plan was largely just the lobbyist brain fart of a Peter Thiel-backed company named Rivada Networks (supported by folks like Karl Rove and Newt Gingrich), yet Carr, O'Rielly, and Pai all had plenty to say about the unworkability of that plan (largely because such a plan is AT&T and Verizon's worst nightmare).

The trio's fellow commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel offered up what was probably the most concise reaction to having the FCC police Facebook and Twitter:

As many have surmised this could all amount to a giant hill of bupkis. The administration may have just been floating a trial balloon that has now, clearly, popped. After all, in the Trump era you can never tell what's serious policy and what's the passing brain fart of whoever has the President's ear at one particular moment.

Still, you'd think a trio of FCC Commissioners who proclaim to be champions of free speech would have had something to say about the plan given the scale of its stupidity. Yet they've refused to issue any comment whatsoever after more than a week. It's almost as if they're not actually being ideologically consistent, and are remaining mute simply out of blind partisan allegiance and support of Trump's clearly idiotic plan to blame social media for the fact that many people just can't stop being grifting assholes on the internet.

And while there's certainly plenty of very real problems with Facebook and Google (especially on the privacy front), it's been kind of overlooked in tech policy circles that a lot of the animosity in DC toward "big tech" right now originates with telecom giants eager to elbow in on Silicon Valley online ad revenues. It is, as they say, always about the money.

Filed Under: 1st amendment, administrative law, ajit pai, anti-conservative bias, bias, brendan carr, donald trump, executive order, fcc, free speech, michael o'rielly, policing speech, social media
Companies: facebook, google


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Aug 2019 @ 8:28pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Those multiple times that Richard...

    I haven't moved the goalposts

    And I quote:

    Karl Bode is upset that the chairman of the FCC has not publicly commented on a non-public plan

    And I quote again:

    The appropriate way for a high-ranking government official to react to an unlawful and unpublished plan

    And I quote again:

    This alleged plan

    Also, for the first half dozen or so of your comments, you didn't seem to have ANY trouble comparing this to the 5G plan and never ONCE did you make any kind of statement about the 5G plan not being an executive order. It was only after we continually, and repeatedly pointed out your lies and false statements that you suddenly brought that up. And really, the fact that it is a "different type of plan" is really irrelevant. If anything it makes it more noteworthy that they haven't commented on it because it's blatantly unconstitutional.

    I've been asking for evidence of the similarity your conspiracy nut alleges from the beginning.

    Not sure who you're referring to but Mike, Karl, and myself have pointed out the similarities to you many times. Like the fact that it was a non-public proposed plan that was leaked. You know, how they're actually pretty similar?

    You're making his false charge because you feel like it's your only way out.

    Can't speak for what Mike is or is not doing but nowhere have I made any false charges. You on the other hand.......

    Let me suggest you break with precedent and try a little honesty.

    You should take your own advice.

    Trump will never issue an order directing the FCC to censor Facebook;

    "Will never" and "wants to" are two totally different things. Besides, he's done several other things that crossed legal lines and been smacked around for it by the courts. Why should this be any different?

    this entire affair is click bait.

    No, it's not. Our sitting president, the commander-in-chief, responsible for running and protecting the entire nation and upholding the Constitution, is literally and blatantly considering a plan that would violate the Constitution. This is the definition of newsworthy. The fact that the plan would attempt to usurp authority over an agency he doesn't have, and that agency has stayed more or less quiet about it, despite being very vocal on other potential plans that weren't blatantly un-Constitutional is odd.

    Try again Richard.


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